Literary Criticism and the Casey Anthony Trial

Ever asked yourself why Borders is bankrupt? No, I haven’t either, because I know why it’s bankrupt: their supplier, the American publishing industry, is intellectually and morally bankrupt. American publishers have been shoving garbage down America’s throats for decades and gifting their friends with 6- and 7-figure book deals while paying only pennies to serious professional writers.

You don’t agree?

Casey Anthony prosecutor Jeff Ashton has announced a book deal with William Morrow for a 256-page hardcover titled Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony. It will go on sale before Christmas so we can all give copies to our friends and relatives. (What a nice gift to find under the Christmas tree!)

Sidebar: I suspect William Morrow is hoping for a holiday hit, but the year-end holidays aren’t the top holiday for book sales. That’s Mother’s Day (I kid you not). Hmm. Casey Anthony on Mother’s Day.

Since Ashton and his publisher have already decided on a list price and know the total number of pages, that tells us he finished the manuscript weeks ago.  The verdict in the trial was announced only 8 weeks ago on July 5. Assuming Ashton spent six weeks full-time on the manuscript and that the average 300-page book is about 60,000 words, then Ashton cranked out about 1,429 words per day with no breaks.

On a good day, I can write 2,000 words, but I spend a horrific amount of time on revisions after the manuscript is done. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I can’t whip out 500 good words in a morning. But, of course, maybe Ashton is some kind of “savant” and, of course, I’m no Jane Austen.

Why Ashton and Not Baez?

Jeff Ashton will go down in history—if at all—as a loser. The only reason William Morrow gave him a contract is for the cache of Casey Anthony’s name. Ashton is feeding at the same trough as all the other exploiters of the death of Caylee Anthony.

The person they ought to have offered a book deal was the lawyer who pulled off one of the greatest coups in legal history, Jose Baez (who appears to be in talks with agents now). I might read a book by winner Baez; clearly he’s taking his time to do it right. He also understands that anything he says or writes now, during the appeals, can only hurt his client. (I wonder if Ashton gave any thought to how his book might affect the appeal of the lying charges.)

Linda Drane Burdick could probably write a good tell-all behind-the-scenes book, too, about how Ashton flubbed it. Early on in the trial, media commentators said, “This is really her case, not Ashton’s.” Then, as the trial progressed, it became obvious that Ashton loved the limelight too much to sit in the background while she handled “her case” quite competently. Instead, Ashton relegated Ms. Drane Burdick to the role of arguing the law before Judge Perry while the jury was out of the courtroom.

Ashton lost the case. He made a mess of the forensic evidence. The jury knew this.

Sidebar: One of my favorite moments in the trial was when Jose Baez cross-examined forensic entomologist Dr. Neal Haskell and nagged him into making the incredibly stupid claim that “There’s a difference between garbage and trash.” I’m sure everyone on the jury thought as I did that the scientist must think we’re all incredibly stupid to try that one on us. But Jeff Ashton believed it and repeated the testimony during his closing.

Even so, a Jose Baez book could not have saved Borders. Not even a book by the infamous evil-doer herself could have done that. By the time any of us first heard of Casey Anthony, Borders was doomed, because American publishers publish very little worth reading.

Hot Air and Forensic Science

Some time ago in response to my statement that (like one of the jurors who spoke to the press) I suspected Casey Anthony might have used chloroform as a babysitter, blogger “Voice of Sanity” contacted me:

‘Easy’ to concoct is arguable – it is ‘easy’ to accidentally produce phosgene, a deadly gas, instead. DuPont had a release from their plant, killing a worker. VOS

Two chemistry professors in this video clip from In Session disagree: they claim that not only is it easy to concoct, chloroform is also released from chlorinated swimming-pool water and lingers for a very long time in enclosed spaces, such as a car trunk and a sealed can (used by Orlando CSI’s to capture the gases in the air of the trunk and later tested at Oak Ridge National Labs and the FBI lab). (They also admit that pure chloroform is hard to make, but for most people’s purposes the purity is irrelevant.)

Two pieces of evidence presented at trial hinted that Casey Anthony might have used chloroform to sedate her daughter:

  • a computer search for “how to make chloroform” found on the Anthony-family computer
  • a minute amount of chloroform detected in the air in the car trunk

Unfortunately for the prosecution, the evidence did nothing more than hint; the defense thoroughly shredded the forensic analysis of both the computer search and the air in the trunk—and the jury understood this.

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, the chloroform junk should never have been admitted into evidence. It was nothing but hot air. I am absolutely certain now that chloroform played no role in Caylee Anthony’s death, but not because of the difficulty or ease of concocting it at home.

The idea that chloroform might have been used as a murder weapon came initially from a poorly conducted computer forensics analysis of the Anthony hard drive. First, a police officer created a report listing all the Google searches on the hard drive. He found nothing sinister other than a single search on “how to make chloroform.” Because he did not know how to use the analysis software properly, he put the report he had generated aside for almost a year before asking a real software expert to look at, but he did initiate an investigation into the presence of chloroform in the remains and the “crime scene” (the wooded area and the car). The remains and the wooded area produced no hint of chloroform.

Some time later, forensic anthropologist Voss from Oak Ridge examined the air in the trunk in hopes of discovering it contained gases that would prove a human body had decomposed there, one byproduct of which is chloroform. He ran a test on the air using a gas chronometer/mass spectrometer: an instrument that determines the chemical makeup of a substance. Voss found chloroform in the sample—as expected, since he had been told that a body had decomposed in the trunk.

But he did not conduct a test to determine how much chloroform or any other single chemical was in the sample. Instead, all he did was determine that chloroform was present and was the dominant gas in the sample.

And here is where logic flew out the window: Voss assumed the air was filled with the gases of human decomposition, but his studies of the gases of human composition had never before shown that chloroform was the dominant gas. Therefore, he concluded, most of the chloroform in the car trunk sample must have come from some other source than the victim’s body.

Since he was also told that chloroform intoxication was suspected as the cause of death (because of the Google search), he ran to the prosecution with his GSMS readouts—and a theory of the crime was formed.

Let’s look at the prosecution’s syllogism again:

  1. The gas in the car trunk was from the decomposing body of a child killed with chloroform (a faulty premise).
  2. The gas in the car trunk was composed of too much chloroform to have come entirely from the process of decomposition (if you believe Voss’s database).
  3. Ergo: chloroform was the murder weapon.

What?

There was nothing fishy about the Google search for “how to make chloroform,” because it was made in the context of someone’s visit to the Facebook page of one of Casey Anthony’s boyfriends who had written a remark about winning girls over with chloroform.

There was nothing fishy about the findings of a very, very minute amount of chloroform in the air of a smelly car trunk. Chloroform is present in many common household products and produced by the decomposition of mammal flesh, such as pork chops. It’s even present in pool water in which the child could have drowned, as the defense claimed.

Casey Anthony’s bizarre behavior after her child’s death compels me to believe she felt guilty about something. Her mother’s apparently false testimony about being the one who searched for “how to make chloroform” makes me wonder if she doesn’t suspect Casey used chloroform as a babysitter.

But there is no evidence at all—not a shred—that chloroform had anything to do with Caylee Anthony’s death.

So, I still feel Casey Anthony felt responsible for her daughter’s death—even if it was because she didn’t keep an eye on Caylee when she most needed to, and Caylee sneaked out of the house one June morning to go swimming alone.

The Casey Anthony trial should be a wake-up call to the forensic science community: a few more public spectacles like it will sour the public on the whole profession. “Forensics” may produce intriguing clues the likes of which Sherlock Holmes would delight in, but clues aren’t evidence. Detectives need to get back to basics. Prosecutors need to learn to respect juries and present them with solid cases.

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Medicare to the American People: “Die Slowly and Miserably!”

This post has nothing to do with crime or courts. It has to do with laws, though, and specifically the laws surrounding death.

In the past five years I’ve had to manage the deaths of two members of my immediate family. I use the word “manage” advisedly, because neither of them died instantly—no car wrecks, no heart attacks, no strokes. They died slowly while enmeshed in bureaucratic red tape.

Because of government regulations, my loved ones died traumatically.

Through this process I learned that while Alan Grayson may have been correct when he said Republicans want us all to “Die Quickly!,” the flip side of the death coin is that Democrats want us all to “Die Slowly!” and according to the rules set out by government agencies.

Sidebar: I have tried to warn everyone I know about the horrors awaiting them when their elderly parents begin to die, but no one will listen. Most people assume their parents have “taken care of things already”: that they have insurance, they have a living will, they have a regular will, they have siblings or relatives or neighbors who are watching out for them, or “they have long-term health-care insurance.” But I guess you have to go through it to understand that none of those “preparations” are a parachute. The government takes charge, no matter what the living will says, or the will says, or the insurance policies say, or even what the dying person says. So, I’m writing this as a public service. Ignore this post at your own peril!

Americans are not free to choose the way they die, any more than a condemned murderer can choose between the gas chamber and lethal injection.

Conventional wisdom says that when a person knows she’s going to die and her family knows, then mercifully they all have time to “come to terms” with the end of life. Conventional wisdom believes dying slowly is a good thing.

As usual, conventional wisdom isn’t wise. Dying slowly is just one damn thing after another.

Hospitals and Terminal Illness

When a person is admitted to a hospital for diagnosis of a serious problem, one of several bureaucracies tells the patient’s doctor what to do:

  • if the patient has private insurance, then the insurance company takes charge
  • if the patient is uninsured and eligible for Medicaid, then Medicaid takes charge
  • if the patient is insured through the Veterans Administration or Medicare, then the VA or Medicare takes charge

In all cases, the doctor’s first task is to diagnose the illness as quickly and inexpensively as possible. If the diagnosis is that the patient has a terminal illness, the doctor’s next task is to make a prognosis: how long will the patient live?

How Long Has He Got?

The nature of the terminal disease is all important in determining how long it will take for a patient to die. A patient with heart disease or cancer is especially problematic, because few definitive tests are available. Most doctors can only estimate how long it will take for a given patient to die, and the estimate is just that—an estimate.

This is the first catch in the system: unless the estimate is that death is imminent (6 months or less) the patient cannot be put into hospice care immediately, even though that is the most-humane thing to do. Why? Because the insurers and the government don’t cover hospice care if the patient could live longer than that. (And, BTW, Alan Grayson is sadly mistaken if he thinks the people in charge of hospice care are Republicans.)

Discharge from a Hospital to Hell

If the patient has private insurance, then an accountant in the hospital will consult the insurance company to determine what treatments are covered and how many days’ stay in the hospital are covered. Normally, no insurance covers hospital stays unless their purpose is for diagnosis and treatment. As soon as a terminal prognosis is made, the patient is promptly discharged from the hospital and for a limited time sent to a skilled-nursing home of the patient’s choice (approved by the insurance company) for “recuperation” from the hospital visit.

Sidebar: A friend told me that when her uncle was diagnosed as having a terminal illness, at his bedside and in front of him the doctor told her, “He can’t die in the hospital.” After that she had to scurry around to find a suitable nursing home for recuperation.It makes you wonder why state governments bother to collect statistics about the recovery rates at hospitals, doesn’t it? They kick out anybody who’s dying. 

If a hospital patient is on Medicaid or VA benefits when a terminal prognosis is made, a Medicaid or VA social worker will take charge. The patient will be discharged to a Medicaid-or-VA-approved skilled-nursing home for a limited period of time—if the patient is on Medicare, then to a Medicare-approved skilled-nursing home.

Recuperation in Skilled Nursing Facilities

Every stay in a nursing home for recuperation from a terminal prognosis by a hospital is a bureaucratic sham.

It is also a waste of money.

But that’s what our wonderful government insists on. The way the bureaucracy sees it: if you go into a hospital with a serious illness, then you cannot go home immediately even if you want to so you can die in privacy. You have to go into a bureaucracy-approved skilled-nursing home to lie in a hospital bed in a ward filled with other dying people so there can be no doubt in your dying brain that you aren’t long for this world.

Why does this happen? The government makes money from this: each skilled nursing home is licensed by the state and approved by the bureaucracies for a fee. The state and the bureaucracies employ thousands of people, including social workers, to inspect these facilities; they employ thousands of managers to oversee the social workers and other employees; and they collect income taxes from the money the dying pay or cause insurers to pay to these facilities.

Catch 22: You can never recuperate in a skilled-nursing home if you are dying.

So what happens when the social worker in the nursing home figures out that you aren’t getting any better?

Well, it’s simple: the social worker notifies the insurer, whether a private company or a government bureaucracy such as the VA, Medicaid, or Medicare. When the insurer hears that the patient isn’t getting any better under the care of the skilled nurses (surprise, surprise), then the insurer cuts off benefits.

Let me stress this fact: decisions about benefits are not made by doctors, nurses, or patients but by social workers and accountants. And “benefits” are all those things you need to die painlessly.

When benefits are cut off—usually with only a few days notice—the patient has to leave the nursing home or find a way to pay for an extended stay out of his or her own pocket. This is where the patient with private insurance is really screwed, because such patients usually have an estate (property, savings, investments) that disqualify them from Medicaid benefits that would permit an extended stay at government expense.

This is also where long-term health care insurance can kick in if the patient has it. The problem is that every elderly person I’ve known who enters a nursing home wants to leave it as soon as possible, n
ot lie there and rot in a ward of dying people. Everyone would prefer to die at home in their own bed with hospice services.

Limbo

At the point when a dying patient is dropped by the insurance company or government insurance agency, the family (if there is one) suddenly finds themselves in a horrible bind. (Not that they weren’t suffering already.)

In my experience, though, it is at this point that the family realizes they have few, if any, options. Not many people have the wherewithal to take responsibility for the care of a dying person in their home or the patient’s home. (The friend I mentioned earlier actually took care of her uncle in his home with the help of a paid companion until hospice services could be provided for him there. That a family should choose to do this is rare. Most families in that situation would have to endure months of a heavy burden with a dying relative in their own home.)

This is also the point at which the family may understand for the first time that they’ve been railroaded—by the doctors, the hospitals, the nursing homes, the social workers, the bureaucrats. All along most of these people have been smiling at them and saying, “There’s nothing to worry about. We deal with these issues all the time. Let us take care of things. You don’t have to contact Medicare (or Medicaid or the VA or the insurance company); we do that. We bill them directly. Everything’s covered,” and the naive family member sighs with relief.

Then the bill comes in the mail, and the notice of termination of benefits, and the demands for a personal guarantee of the patient’s pharmaceutical costs—with a requirement that your signature be notarized and witnessed by two other people.

Suddenly the bureaucrats turn blank stares upon you, when you ask where exactly the patient should go now that he or she can’t stay in the nursing home any longer.

Where to Die for More Than Six Months?

This is the single most-important question everyone should ask themselves today: where will I go to die?

Over a decade ago I heard for the first time about hospice care. Someone close to my mother died in hospice care. It sounded like a wonderful institution. But I didn’t give it any more thought than that—and this was a huge mistake.

Hospice care isn’t a place; it’s a service. Hospice workers go into a dying patient’s residence when the prognosis is that the patient has six months or less to live.

Hospice is only available through an insurer. In other words, if a patient has private insurance, then the insurer must cover hospice care or else hospice care isn’t available at all. If the patient is elderly, then hospice care is covered by Medicare or if destitute by state-specific Medicaid. There’s no such thing as private hospice, because of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement requirements. It’s the law.

Remember, hospice is only available if the patient has less than six months to live. If the attending physician can’t make that determination, then the dying patient has to go somewhere without the benefit of hospice-workers’ assistance. That means in many cases that a family member must care for the dying patient until a hospice social worker or nurse can be convinced that the patient’s condition has deteriorated sufficiently.

“That should be easy to do,” you say. Oh, yeah?

When my mother was diagnosed with a form of cancer that is inevitably fatal and was already in terminal, stage four, the doctors and nurses caring for her said, “To look at her you wouldn’t know she was sick at all.” The doctors gave her from “a few months to two years to live.” Hence, no hospice.

VA Hospice Benefits

One of my dying relatives was covered by the VA. Because I didn’t know anything about skilled nursing homes or hospice at the time, the terminal illness became a bureaucratic nightmare. If you have a relative who may be eligible for VA benefits, find out now. Find out what end-of-life care coverage the patient is entitled to.

VA hospitals don’t want anyone to die in the hospital any more than private hospitals do. They will try to kick your loved one out as fast or faster than a private hospital will. But to make things worse, there is no length to which the VA will not go to be able to ship the patient off to a nursing home if the patient has no living will that permits them to withhold life-sustaining treatments or is competent and requests treatment. (Some people don’t want to die, you know.)

My veteran relative became convinced—as a result of poor communication skills on the part of the case social worker—that because the VA would cover several weeks recuperation in a skilled nursing facility, it meant the disease was not terminal after all.

When Hospice Kicks In and You Kick the Bucket

My recent experience with hospice was not a good one. The hospice “team” (as they called themselves) bullied us all into doing what they wanted us to do, not what we wanted to do. At one point they even told me that I would not be “a good person” unless I followed their instructions—instructions that would have put a huge strain on my whole family’s emotional resources. I bowed to their demands.

The determination that hospice-care was called for, in this case, came from the administrator of the retirement community in which my mother lived—a bureaucrat, not a doctor. She contacted a hospice service (of her choice, not the patient’s or the patient’s family). As it turned out, my mother died in less than two weeks after the hospice care was initiated; and no one could tell that death was imminent until less than 48 hours before she died.

After the administrator’s first call, a hospice admissions nurse then visited the patient to make sure she was going to die soon enough. After that a social worker called me to introduce herself as the “team manager.” She demanded to know the most-intimate details of the patient’s life and our family. She also asked whether a pastor should visit the patient, but, even though I recommended no such visit, a “sister” soon showed up at the bedside to pray and sing hymns, which—had the patient been conscious at the time—would have disturbed her immeasurably.

Every day, a hospice nurse called me to describe the patient’s condition. Among the “comforting” tidbits the nurses shared with me was that dehydration (from lack of fluids) and starvation (because the patient’s stomach was involved in the cancer) cause the brain to produce endorphins, thus making dehydration and starvation pleasant. The nurses and social worker also decided when and what medications to administer. When the patient fell unconscious and began moaning, they decided more pain medication was unnecessary; instead they administered anti-anxiety drugs.

Finally, the social worker decided when a vigilant was required at the bedside. She also ordered my brother and I to get there as quickly as possible and to do some other things I would rather not discuss in public.

I was so distraught at that point that I blindly obeyed. It wasn’t until my mother died that I realized what bullshit it all was.

My dying mother and her family had no say whatsoever in how she was cared for after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Accountants and social workers made all the decisions. All of them. And at each step they decided to spend the least amount of money they could, to provide the least amount of care they could, and to administer the least amount of medication they could. They even decided that a woman who could best be described as a wiccan should have a Catholic nun pray and sing at her bedside.

Law and Disorder, Spread the Wealth, and Kristallnacht

The justice system only works if criminals are “brought to justice.” When crimes are committed by mobs of criminals, there’s little hope of that ever happening. While the media continue to fret over Casey Anthony’s “freedom,” mobs of violent criminals are storming through the streets here and in England—and getting away with murder more certainly than she did.

I suppose that’s what troubles me most about the American justice system these days: prosecutors and judges can’t distinguish between law-breakers who make serious mistakes for which they should be duly punished (not executed) and law-breakers who have no concept of the law at all. The justice system is so heavily politicized that it gravitates to sensational, personal tragedies in which beautiful young women are involved as either the criminal or the victim. The system can’t recognize, let alone cope with, national tragedies and the breakdown of social cohesion.

The media, of course, can only deal with simple, little things—like a plastic bag with a child’s bones in it or the disappearance of beautiful blond girls on the island of Aruba. And they are obliged for profit purposes to cover only crimes committed in states where cameras are allowed in courtrooms. So, whatever happens in Florida is big news, but crimes in Illinois are nothing (even when the fourth governor since 1973 is now in jail, three of whom were Democrats, not Republicans).

But Casey Anthony was never anything more than a disturbed girl who neglected or abused her child to death and then tried to cover it up. We’re ignoring whole cultures of young people who are committing violent crimes against not only individuals but society who never will be brought before a jury for justice.

London Riots

Last week I was in London and a nearby town on the nights of rioting. I don’t know how the riots were covered here in America, but the media coverage in England was very, very strange.

At first when the riot was contained to the Tottenham Court neighborhood, the media chewed their white knuckles and puzzled over the reasons why young people would do such things: “Why? Surely this isn’t going to continue. This isn’t the beginning of a rebellion, an English Spring?”

Tottenham Court is a central tube station in London—not a slum neighborhood. While buildings burned overhead at street level, I and hordes of other tourists passed through the station. The trains didn’t stop at Tottenham Court. Instead the conductors said, “A fire alarm has been sounded at the next stop. The train will stop but not open its doors.” And “Due to circumstances at this time there will be no service to Tottenham Court.”

The next day, video of the riots showed that the rioters weren’t just any and all young people. They were minorities who clearly were of immigrant families from former English colonies in Jamaica and South Asia or the Middle East. The victims were also minority immigrants. These weren’t race riots against white oppressors. They weren’t riots against austerity measures—because the rioters aren’t affected by Britain’s budget cuts.

They were riots of “pensioners,” young people “on the dole,” “on benefits,” people with no jobs—not because they can’t find work. They don’t want to work. Why should they? They don’t need to work, because they are given everything they want.

The next night the riots spread to cities like Nottingham, which I visited several years ago. In those days, there was a riot every Friday and Saturday night in Nottingham. Nothing burned; the young people got drunk and went wilding. In the lobby of the hotel where I was staying a brawl broke out at a wedding party. In smaller cities like Nottingham, for many years the young people have behaved as if it was Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale every weekend.

In the small city where I was last week, Colchester (the oldest town in England), the proprietor of the bed and breakfast where I stayed was so concerned about street violence that he closed the English Civil War-era shutters (last used in the Siege of Colchester in the seventeenth century) for the first time since he had owned the building. Fortunately, there were no riots in Colchester. But neither is there a large immigrant population, and its young people tend to be serious students at the highly technical University of Essex. (Yes, they got drunk and staggered through the streets at night, but they did no harm.)

Eventually the London media learned that the London mayor and chief of police had told the cops during the Tottenham Court riots not to arrest anyone “lest they hurt someone.” As a result, of course, the rioters did not get hurt—only innocents did. Several young people were killed. Some were raped. Businesses were destroyed so that their employees can now enjoy the “benefits.”

Soon afterwards the Prime Minister called on his cabinet to return from their vacations to deal with the crisis. A few of them came home to London. Many did not. The mayor of London finally issued orders to arrest rioters. The rioting promptly stopped.

Over the next few days they began to identify the looters and most violent of the criminals from CCTV surveillance videos. One of the arrested rioters was a 15-year-old boy whose young mother “didn’t know where he was at two in the morning.” (The media were careful to say, though, they “did not want to stigmatize single mothers.” I guess they would have treated Casey Anthony with more respect, too.)

The victims were identified, too—young people who were murdered, rape victims, the owner of a modest family-run department store that was burned to the ground. This is significant—it wasn’t Harrad’s or Selfridges that burned. It was a smallish store, but one just big enough to look as if its owners were richer than the rioters.

Eventually the Prime Minister and others began to call for a withdrawal of “benefits” from the rioters. For those who don’t know, in England no one has to work or pay for their own homes. The government provides not only a living stipend to anyone who wants it but also any home they want to live in. For instance, it was revealed last week that a refugee Somali family was living in a 2 million pound home in the neighborhood of actress Emma Thompson at taxpayer expense (the pound is worth more than the dollar is today). How many unemployed people do you know who live in a $2 million home? Or for that matter how many employed people?

Kristallnacht All Over Again

In Nazi Germany in 1938, one night gangs of youths stormed through Jewish neighborhoods, rioting, looting, smashing shop windows, killing. That night was known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) because of the shattered glass that lay everywhere afterwards.

Kristallnacht was one of the most evil events in modern history. It happened because the Nazi government in Germany made it crystal clear to the youthful thugs of the era that they were entitled to take whatever they wanted as long as it was from Jews, to destroy anything Jews had, to rape and kill Jews.

In England the government has made it crystal clear to youthful thugs that they don’t have to get a job, they don’t have to do anything, and everything is theirs to destroy or take, as they choose.

I have been to England several times over four decades. This most-recent visit was the first time I hated being in London. I hated walking on the streets, because the crowds of young people wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence; they shouldered and elbowed me aside; they bashed me with their handbags; they pushed me through turnstiles. The undergro
und was a nightmare: it was hellishly hot; half the stops were under construction and inaccessible because of “upgrades” for next year’s Olympics; several times I found myself in long, narrow, low-ceilinged tunnels pressed up against crowds of people who were at a complete standstill because there weren’t enough trains. It was even worse than my memories of New York City in the Sixties and Seventies. (In those days, it was before anyone Red heart‘ed New York.)

And all the English politeness and exactitude was gone, too. No one seemed to know what they were doing. The trains were all late. The signs displaying times and destinations were wrong. No one knew how to get from point A to point B. Every question and request for assistance or directions was met with a sigh, a head shake, a rebuke: “What does the sign say? Isn’t that what the sign says?”

For the first time, I came home to the Chicago area feeling relieved to be out of England. Then, guess what happened?

Kristallnacht came to Chicago, but now it isn’t only Jews who are the targets—it’s everybody who owns anything.

A group of men “of mixed ethnicity” (or a flash mob, if you prefer) forced their way into a private home in broad daylight less than three blocks from my suburban home. Apparently the home was picked on a whim by a carload of thugs who just happened to be passing by on the Illinois state highway that runs through Chicago’s western suburbs. It isn’t a road that looks like a highway; it’s a very old road that connects with a nearby interstate, only two lanes with a 25-mile-per-hour speed limit. The town is Victorian-era.  The street is residential and lined with ancient oaks and elms.

(The local police chief is now playing down the incident. Instead of portraying it as a home invasion as he originally did, he’s now claiming it was one of a previously unreported series of “ruse burglaries” in which burglars claim to be utility workers in order to gain access to homes. My, that really calms my fears.)

I knew that for the past year Chicago’s “Gold Coast” area along Lake Michigan had been targeted by flash mobs of youths from the South Side. But I had never before heard of a flash mob invading a private home. Have you?

In Chicago the flash mobs get on the subway and ride up to North Michigan Avenue where the most-exclusive shops and luxury hotels are. They flood into designer-clothing shops and in plain view of surveillance cameras try on clothes and then just walk out with them. As in London, the cops are being told to “let it be.” The mayor has pulled most of the cops off the streets because of budget issues, and retailers have to employ private security firms for protection.

Why do they do it? Because they can. Why did the Somali family move into actress Emma Thompson’s neighborhood? When asked they claimed not to speak English and refused to explain why.

The real question is why do politicians let people get away with this kind of behavior? IMHO, it’s because politicians aren’t incented to do anything but get reelected—just as prosecutors and judges aren’t incented to do anything but convict and execute high-profile defendants.

Chicago flash mobs clearly feel entitled to spread the wealth around as they see fit. They clearly do not respect private property. I can only suppose their thinking goes like this: if it’s offered for sale to the public and the flash mobbers are the public, then they must be entitled to the goods, even if they can’t pay for them.

On the East Coast, I’ve heard that flash mobs are targeting 7-Elevens and other quick-stop stores. It isn’t surprising, is it? If it’s okay to take luxury goods, it must be okay to take cheap stuff, too.

But what made the flash mob that invaded the home in my neighborhood think they were entitled to what was inside a randomly chosen suburban house? I guess we’re back to the days of “Eat the Rich,” but now “the rich” are anyone who has more than you do—even if it’s more they earned by selling Slurpies at a 7-Eleven.

This is anarchy. These criminals will never be brought to justice. No jury will ever hear their side of the story. The victims will never be compensated. Meanwhile, in Florida, law enforcement and the justice system whine on and on about Casey Anthony and how her jailors stupidly signed papers admitting she served her probation for a minor check fraud crime while being held on other charges.